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Tag: Warhammer (page 1 of 3)

All About Living Card Games

Introduced by Fantasy Flight Games  all the way back in 2008, the Living Card Game (LCG) model of distribution is an innovative alternative to the widespread collectible card game model.  Anyone who has played Magic, Yu-Gi-Oh or Pokemon will know the sting that competitive play can bring to your wallet, as you try and track down those rare competitive cards whose prices make money strapped gamers sad. The LCG model was the answer to this, beginning with A Game of Thrones and Call of Cthulhu back in 2008, with many more games joining the fixed distribution model later on.

For those who don’t know what the main draw of an LCG is, it’s quite simple; no random packs. Before you purchase a product, you know exactly what you’re going to get. No more chasing down those money cards and forking out ludicrous amounts of money just for the right to compete. Just work out which pack the cards you want are from and grab that. Or just grab everything; keeping up with an LCG is really not an expensive venture, and they combine excellent gameplay with their lowered barriers to entry to create a healthy and thriving scene.

If you’re not sure which LCG is for you, then you’ve come to the right place; I’ll be looking at each LCG that is currently in print and still continuing to release product (as well as one upcoming one), giving a brief rundown on my own thoughts on the game, as well as a quick recommendation on who I believe it’s suitable for. Note that this article doesn’t cover the LCG-like games of other companies (Doomtown: Reloaded and VS2PCG come to mind), but only those offered by Fantasy Flight Games.

I’m going to use the generic terms “Pack” and “Deluxe” to represent the smaller sixty card expansions (well, three times twenty different card) and the larger box expansions respectively. They are called different things depending on the game, but for the sake of simplicity, I will be using these two terms instead. If you’re thinking about getting into the LCG, click on the title just before their respective sections. Without further ado, let’s get into it, starting with:

Lord of the Rings: The Card Game (2011)

The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game

Lord of the Rings is an interesting product in that whilst it has been out the longest and has far and away the most product available for it (currently 33 Packs and 12 deluxe expansions), it is also the game that has the lowest barrier to entry, a virtue of the fact that the game is entirely co-operative. You need not be concerned with needing everything; you can grab everything at your own pace and slowly discover the game. In fact, the Core Set itself contains so many powerful cards that with the Core Set and even just a handful of packs, you can build decks to take on any adventure.

The game has really ramped up in the last few years. I found the initial quests in the early cycles to be a bit lacking, but the last three cycles have been absolutely amazing, as have the Fellowship adventures, which allow for a campaign mode as well. And boy oh boy have the quests gotten harder; even with well tailored decks and experienced players, the game is very difficult, just as a co-op game should be.

A great option for solo-play and even as a pseudo board game on its own, Lord of the Rings is definitely worth a look into if you’re looking for a readily expandable cooperative experience that’s thematic, challenging and innovative. Probably one of the further advantages of the game is that even if your area lacks a playgroup, you’re still able to enjoy all of the game by yourself, or even with friends; you don’t need a community for the game to be at its best. A good entry point would be two Core Sets and some of the Fellowship deluxes, Alternatively, one cycle of six packs plus the deluxe to go with it can replace the Fellowship deluxes. An important thing to note is that each cycle is tied to a deluxe, thus you’re better off not buying random packs without the corresponding deluxe. As far as cycles go, I was a huge fan of the Land of Shadow, and am really liking the interesting direction the designers have taken with the Grey Havens, so either of those would make for awesome places to begin your adventures in Middle-Earth.

Android: Netrunner (2012)

Android: Netrunner

I will freely admit that Netrunner is one of the few LCGs I haven’t had much experience with. An asymmetric card game set in a cyberpunk world, one player plays as the hacker trying to bypass all of the traps and blockades set up by the corp played by the other. It’s certainly a very unique game, forgoing much of the standard spend resources, play character of other games and replacing it with a game full of risk management, bluffing and constant tension. Sure, cards still cost money, but the main driving force of the game is action and risk management.

Netrunner has easily seen the most success out of all the LCGs, with hundreds of players turning up for its largest events.  Now many cycles in, the game is very deep and deck possibilities are vast and varied. That, however, comes at a cost, and the entry point at the moment is intimidating. In my own experiences, it’s the type of game that you have to make your main game to truly enjoy it;  the hidden knowledge component of the game means that not being up to date with the cards is going to cost you even more than in other games, and the risk management/math heavy nature of the game means that in order to get the most out of Netrunner, you have to invest yourself in it,

Thankfully, the community resources are far and away the most expansive of the LCGs, and you will likely have no issue finding tournaments or competitive-minded players to play against. I would recommend Netrunner to the competitive card gamer looking for something to throw themselves into, but definitely not for those looking to just dabble and play for fun; to me, the game just doesn’t quite do casual well, and shines brightest in the heat of competition.

Star Wars: The Card Game (2012)

Star Wars: The Card Game

Yet another asymmetric game, though not quite to the extent of NetrunnerStar Wars: The Card Game  has had a bit of a tumultuous history. After an excellent and interesting core set, the first cycle was rather weak, and that coupled with delays meant that many became disillusioned with it. As a point of comparison, Star Wars and Netrunner were released in the same year, but Star Wars is seven packs behind! This means that it’s much more difficult to find a tournament for Star Wars.

That said, the game is not without fantastic mechanics that, again, got much better as time went on (the second cycle was magnificent). If you’re a true fan of the license, you can have a lot of fun with this game, and there are a whole heap of viable options for deckbuilding at a casual, fun level. There is a bit of a thematic disconnect which a lot of people have taken issue with (an X-Wing blasting down Darth Vader, or the Executor being poked by Ewoks for example) but with two core sets and two Edge of Darkness expansion packs, a lot of fun can be had. It pains me that I can’t recommend this higher, given how interesting the game play is (really, if you like game design, try play a game of it) and how much I like the license, but you can’t win ’em all.

Warhammer 40000: Conquest (2014)

Warhammer 40,000: Conquest

Speaking of excellent game design, the LCGs continue to deliver with Eric Lang’s Warhammer 40000: Conquest. Much like Netrunner, Conquest really lends itself to tournament play above anything else; you can certainly play the factions you like, but due to the super tight game play, not playing with competitive options means you’re going to get crushed quickly. With a much more spacial aspect than the other LCGs (fitting given the license) and the extremely innovative and well thought out simultaneous decision making mechanic, Warhammer 40000: Conquest has a lot going for it gameplay-wise for a start.

What’s more, on top of the strong license, great gameplay  and fantastic artwork is the relatively low price point of the game at the moment. With only two deluxes and thirteen packs, you can have everything in the game for a relatively low entry point. Whilst recent developments on the game have been slow and it lacks the same consistent community which both Netrunner and the next game have in spades, you could do far worse as far as great, skill intensive competitive games go.

A Game of Thrones: The Card Game Second Edition (2015)

A Game of Thrones: The Card Game

Wasting no time after ending First Edition, A Game of Thrones: The Card Game Second Edition (AGOT 2.0) is running pretty hot at the moment. If you’re a fan of the source material, you’ll find all of your favourite characters faithfully represented in AGOT 2.0, which currently has a heavy focus on these unique fan favourite characters going into various challenges against one another as you struggle for the Iron Throne. With a healthy mix of luck and skill, relatively simple mechanics, a healthy and steadily growing community and the fact that it’s currently FFG’s youngest LCG, AGOT 2.0 is definitely the game to get into at the moment if you’re on the fence about all the others (or you’re just a mega-fan of the series).

Much like Netrunner and ConquestAGOT 2.0 is primarily a competitive game. The first of two game modes, Joust is the more common of the two and is  a traditional one versus one affair. In addition, casual play is much more encouraged mechanically than in any other LCG, at least in my opinion. This is further exemplified by the wilder, more chaotic Melee format, where three to four players struggle for the throne, forging alliances only to break them off just as quickly. The melee option even works quite well as just a family board game on its own, making AGOT 2.0 one of the easier games to sample first before committing.

Arkham Horror: The Card Game (4th Quarter 2016-Early 2017)

The only LCG not yet released that we’ll be looking at today is the mysterious Arkham Horror: The Card Game. Not too much is known about this game yet, but early reports point towards a hybrid LCG/roleplaying experience unlike any other game on the market. I’m incredibly curious to see how much FFG has learned about making a cooperative LCG from Lord of the Rings, and if they can get it right from the beginning, the popular theme and innovative design space may prove to be a winner!

Whichever LCG you do end up choosing, I hope you have an amazing time with the diverse, thematic experiences awaiting you in each and every box. Fantasy Flight Games have done a wonderful job with the core of each of their card games, and I look forward to seeing what the future holds for this innovative model of card games (there are two more upcoming LCGs, but they’ll have to wait for another article).

Blood Bowl Team Manager is Here!

Blood Bowl Team Manager

Blood BowlFans of the Games Workshop classic Blood Bowl—and gamers who love the crazy concept of fantasy football set in an ‘alternate’ Warhammer world—have been eagerly awaiting kick-off for the Blood Bowl: Team Manager – The Card Game, and it’s finally here! Yes, the whistle has been blown and it’s time to grab a copy of this fantastic foray into violence, cheating and, occasionally, goal scoring by your favourite Warhammer fantasy football teams.

For those of you who arrived late to the stadium, Blood Bowl is a game originally released way back in 1987, which has gone through several versions since then and still lives on as a fan favourite today—in fact the rules for the game are currently at version 6! The game pits teams of humans, orcs, skaven, elves, and other fantasy races against each other in vicious games of fast-paced and violent football—an unholy mix of American Football and Rugby, with a lot more injuries! Teams are represented by miniatures which you can paint in your team colours, and different teams have different abilities and strengths—orcs, obviously, are not known for their subtle play, elves tend to be agile, fast and light on their feet, and skaven just cheat!

From the simple first edition with a board and cardboard pieces, through the second edition with its spectacular polystyrene moulded board, to the sweeping rules changes of the third edition, Blood Bowl has always been a much loved game and one particularly popular in tournaments and league play. There’s even a World Cup tournament in England, with teams coming from as far afield as here in Australia!

There have been several attempts to bring Blood Bowl to the computer as a video game, culminating in the very successful video game released in 2009 by Cyanide Studio, which is now available for PC, Nintendo DS, PlayStation Portable and XBox 360.

Blood Bowl

Which brings us to the latest game set in the alternate fantasy universe of Blood Bowl; a result of the alliance between Fantasy Flight Games and Games Workshop that is bringing us such excellent games set in the Warhammer universes as Chaos in the Old World, Warhammer: Invasion, Space Hulk: Death Angel and Horus Heresy. Blood Bowl: Team Manager – The Card Game is a bone-breaking, breathtaking card game of violence and outright cheating for two to four players. Chaos, Dwarf, Wood Elf, Human, Orc, and Skaven teams compete against each other over the course of a brutal season. Customize your team by drafting Star Players, hiring staff, upgrading facilities, and cheating like mad. Lead your gang of misfits and miscreants to glory over your rivals as you strive to become Spike! Magazine’s Manager of the Year!

The season is starting. What kind of team will you build? You can choose from six teams: the versatile humans of the Reikland Reavers; the short, tough, well-armoured Dwarven Grudgebearers; the athletic Wood Elf Athelorn Avengers; the sneaky Skavens of the Skavenblight Scramblers; the violent Orcs of the Gouged Eye; or the even-more-violent, cheating, and downright nast Chaos All-Stars. You have five weeks (or game turns) to groom your team for the final Blood Bowl tournament in head-to-head highlights—accumulating fans, gathering payouts and rewards and upgrades.

For old Blood Bowl fans this game is a no-brainer, but if you’re after a fast, thematic, and highly amusing card game with a unique atmosphere, you can’t go past Blood Bowl: Team Manager – The Card Game. Let the season begin!

Blood Bowl: Team Manager – The Card Game includes: over 150 Player and Matchup cards; 4 Scoreboards; 2 Tackle Dice; Rulebook; over 50 Team and Staff Upgrade cards; and over 50 Customized Tokens.

What’s Hot: Deathwatch: Mark of the Xenos

Mark of the XenosThe Enemies of the Emperor are many…

Aliens, Heretics, and Daemons scheme from the shadows to oppose the Imperium of Man, but the Space Marines of the Deathwatch are sworn to hunt down and destroy all enemies of the Emperor. Remain vigilant! Learn the nature of your foes, that you might better purge them from the stars.

Mark of the Xenos, a new supplement for the Warhammer 40,000 RPG Deathwatch, presents a myriad of worthy challenges for any Space Marine, from the ravening Tyranid swarm to the sleek, technologically-advanced Tau—and many more! Discover guidance and counsel from notable members of the Deathwatch on how best to exterminate each threat. Plus, experience new advanced rules for battling hordes of creatures in massive engagements. Mark of the Xenos provides a detailed bestiary of the monstrous enemies in the Jericho Reach Features, rules for large-scale combat, tips for killing foes, and more. Game Masters will find a host of new enemies to challenge players, and players will be prepared against the foes they might face. With bolt, shell, and flame, purge the vile alien from the stars of the Jericho Reach!

Deathwatch is the the popular roleplaying game set in the dark science-fiction universe of Games Workshop’s Warhammer 40,000 setting. Players take on the roles of members of the Adeptus Astartes—the devout, bio-engineered super-soldiers also known as Space Marines. You will be called into service to hunt down and destroy hostile xenos forces, to seek out and crush the root of heresy and sedition, and to continually fight against the foul daemon menace that crawls forth hungrily from beyond the Warp. You are at the fore of Mankind’s war for survival against an extremely hostile universe!

FFG Announce Chaos in the Old World Expansion

The Horned Rat

Chaos in the Old World fans rejoice! Fantasy Flight Games has announced a new addition to the unique game of Chaos Gods competing to subjugate the Warhammer Old World: The Horned Rat. This exciting expansion to the game will add a fifth player—the verminous Skaven—to the game, plus introduce terrible new events, and new upgrade and power cards for the existing Powers.

In addition, new ‘expert level’ Old World cards can either be shuffled into the existing deck or played on their own, bringing even more variety and challenges to the Chaos in the Old World game.

If you haven’t yet discovered Chaos in the Old World, it’s a strategic and challenging game set in the Old World of the Warhammer Fantasy games. Four Ruinous Powers—the dark gods Tzeentch, Khorne, Nurgle and Slaanesh—compete to corrupt and dominate the world. Chaos in the Old World is certainly one of the best designed games FFG has released in the past few years, and I highly recommend grabbing a copy.

With this new expansion the Skaven player can send his teeming ratmen minions across the world in an attempt to conquer humankind for their god: the Horned Rat!

Look out for more news about this exciting expansion in the future.

Roleplaying in the 41st Millennium

W40K Roleplaying

The grim, gothic science-fiction universe of Games Workshop’s Warhammer 40,000 is one of gaming’s greatest melieus. Since the original Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader hardcover book was first released way back in 1987 (my original copy sits behind me on the shelf as I write), the vast expanses of the 41st millennium have been continually developed in more and more detail as a background to the hugely popular tabletop miniatures game.

Almost since the original hardback hit the shelves, fans have dreamed of roleplaying in this incredible universe, but it took a long time for those dreams to become a reality. Finally, Black Industries, a Games Workshop publishing company—hot on the heels of the success of their 2nd edition launch of the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay game—announced that a W40K roleplaying game was imminent. But not just one roleplaying game—there would be three! There were so many possibilities in such a vast universe that one game couldn’t hope to cover them all, so there would be three games that shared similar mechanics, but focussed on different aspects of roleplaying in the far future.

Well, Black Industries released the first, long awaited system: Dark Heresy, and it sold out in no time at all. The future looked bright until suddenly the news came through that Black Industries was being dismantled. Thankfully, and to the great relief of roleplayers worldwide, it was announced that Fantasy Flight Games would take over not only WFRP and Dark Heresy, but all further development on both RPGs. And since then we have been treated to a surfeit of riches—and just recently, the announcement of a surprising fourth addition to the W40K RPG pantheon.

The Dark HeresyDark Heresy: Core Rulebook is the first game in the W40K RPG line (but of course you can choose and play any one—or more— of these RPG systems, depending on what kind of setting and characters you and your players would enjoy the most).

The setting is a part of the Imperium called the Calixis Sector (the background material is written by best-selling Warhammer 40,000 novelists Dan Abnett and Ben Counter), and players take on the roles of Acolytes of the Inquisition, aiming to uncover and combat the enemies of mankind. You stand in the front line of a great and secret war where your duty is to hunt out the foul stench of heresy, the vile alien, and the twisted influence of Chaos. You will tread where others fear, venturing to distant planets, ancient space hulks and the unsavoury depths of the under-hive. You will never know fame nor reward, yet if you stand resolute your deeds will be whispered to the God-Emperor of Mankind and your name will be revered for millennia…

At last count there were twelve supplements and expansions for Dark Heresy, so there’s no shortage of detailed background material and adventures to keep your players busy rooting out heretics for millennia! Two good places to start are the Game Master’s Kit, an essential resource for the GM containing a sturdy screen full of useful references and information, and a full scenario; and Purge the Unclean, an anthology of linked scenarios.

Then there are expansions full of new rules, careers, creatures, gear and packed with background material—The Inquisitor’s Handbook, The Radical’s Handbook, Disciples of the Dark Gods, Ascension, Blood of Martyrs, and Creatures Anathema.

Of course there is plenty of adventure material available, including the three-book epic campaign called Haarlock’s Legacy: Tattered Fates and Damned Cities, and Dead Stars. Also look out for The Black Sepulchre, the first installment of a new campaign.

Rogue TraderThe next RPG, Rogue Trader, took W40K roleplaying out into the blackness of infinite space. Players take on the roles of a Rogue Trader and his most trusted counsellors, empowered by an ancient warrant of trade to seek out profit and plunder amongst unexplored regions of space. Your ship will take you to new worlds and uncharted reaches of the void, where you will encounter rivals, pirates, aliens, and possibly even creatures of the warp. You will acquire and spend great wealth and riches, and fame or infamy will follow. You will discover ancient and forgotten mysteries and search out the unknown to find lost human worlds or never before seen celestial phenomena. You must survive the dangers of space, for beyond the threat of vacuum and deadly radiation lurk things Man was never meant to find.

Vast profits await for you and your fellow Explorers to find and claim. Fame and fortune reward the bold, but the unwary find only an anonymous death…

Best of all, there are rules for building your own starship (or starting play with one of six pre-generated vessels). Dynamic rules cover all eventualities from social interaction to deadly fast-paced combat, starships and psychic powers to a system of profit and influence. The Rogue Trader: Core Rulebook contains everything you need to start your adventure in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, including a complete adventure that puts you right into the middle of the action.

Then blast into some of the galaxy’s greatest adventures: The Lure of the Expanse, featuring three adventures set amongst the unexplored stars beyond the Imperium; and The Frozen Reaches, which puts the adventurers on a planet facing an imminent Ork invasion.

There’s plenty of expanded background material and new rules too: Edge of the Abyss offers in-depth descriptions of several important locations in the Expanse, and background information, statistics, and ships for the most powerful alien races and organizations; Into the Storm details new character options and gear (plus you can play as an alien!); and Battlefleet Koronus is an extensive sourcebook about the starships of the Imperium.

DeathwatchSomething W40K players have been wanting to do for a long, long time is actually roleplay the classic Space Marines or Adeptus Astartes—the devout, bio-engineered super-soldiers who are so iconic of the tabletop game and the W40K universe. And finally, the Deathwatch: Core Rulebook arrived. As a character in a Deathwatch game, you are an exceptional space marine singled out, after many years of faithful service to your own chapter, to join one of the most unique and specialized collectives of Space Marines—the mysterious Deathwatch. Its members swear a new oath to safeguard the Imperium from the darkest of threats. You will be called into service to hunt down and destroy hostile xenos forces, to seek out and crush the root of heresy and sedition, and to continually fight against the foul daemon menace that crawls forth hungrily from beyond the Warp. You and your fellow players will be on the front line of an Imperial Crusade to reclaim the vast region of space known as the Reach from darkness and heresy. The fate of billions rests in your hands!

Your GM would do well to employ the aid of the Deathwatch Gamemaster’s Kit, which comes complete with a sturdy GM screen featuring stunning artwork and useful tables, charts, rules, and statistics, providing quick Game Master reference and a handy place behind which to plot your evil schemes. In addition, there’s a 32-page full colour booklet with a selection of useful NPCs, an expanded Mission generation system, and a complete adventure, The Shadow of Madness. But that’s still not all … included is a section devoted to aiding Game Masters to devise missions and implement them into your own Deathwatch campaigns, plus an appendix detailing the important NPCs that your players’ Kill-team may encounter, with plenty of adventure ideas for each.

The surprising new addition to the W40K RPG line is a fourth game that was never announced back in the Black Industries days: Black Crusade. This new game will offer players an entirely new perspective on the conflict between the Imperium of Man and the forces of Chaos—for now you will be able to play as a Disciple of the Dark Gods, whether as a Chaos Space Marine or a human Servant of Chaos. It’s time to be the bad guys!

As you can see, Fantasy Flight Games has roleplaying in the universe of the 41st millennium well and truly covered—it only remains for you to choose your game, gear up your characters, and go forth to investigate, explore and of course—fight!

What’s Hot: New Warhammer Invasion Packs

Two new packs for the Warhammer Invasion Living Card Game are now available: The Fourth Waystone and Bleeding Sun. These are the fifth and sixth Battle Pack installments of The Enemy Cycle, a linked expansion series for Warhammer: Invasion, a card game of intense warfare, clever kingdom management, and epic questing. Both packs contains 60 cards, 3 copies each of 20 different never-before-seen cards designed to augment existing decks and add variety to the Warhammer: Invasion metagame.

The Fourth Waystone Cards 81-100
Sources of purity, the waystones help maintain the Winds of Magic. If they can be corrupted, the Dark Elves will strike at the source of their sworn enemies’ powers, breaking an age-old stalemate once and for all.

Bleeding Sun Cards 101-120
Blessing of Myrmidia brings strength to the Knights of the Empire, while the vile Beast of Rot feeds on the power of Nurgle. Meanwhile, the Orcs tame a Giant Spider and the High Elves harness the power of the Moon Staff of Lileath!

These are not stand-alone decks. A Warhammer: Invasion The Card Game core set is required to play.

Friday’s Gaming News Update

New Releases from Games Paradise
The new D&D Gamma World Roleplaying Game is out—weird fun in an a savage post-apocalyptic earth! (Matt Drake has a great review here.)

The long-awaited Dust Tactics is finally here—36 fantastic figures for epic miniatures battles in an alternate 1940s reality.

Another Fantasy Flight release—Cadwallon: City of Thieves, a fast-paced game of cunning thievery and ruthless skullduggery in a fantasy city steeped in magic and intrigue.

For family fun, Smiley Face is a great card game for 4-8 players.

For fans of the original and other players who love a monster/horror/ghost-movie atmosphere, the new edition of Betrayal at House on the Hill is out.

Talisman fans won’t want to miss the latest expansion: The Sacred Pool.

News From the World of Gaming
Zuzzy Miniatures have added a Broken Blacktop urban gaming mat to their series of flexible tabletop gaming mats.

A photograph of the Storm Raven Gunship, a fantastic new Warhammer 40,000 plastic kit, was leaked online. It’s since been taken down from the GW site but you can check it out here.

Wizards of the Coast are planning to re-release the classic Richard Borg game Battle Cry, the influential original Command & Colors system game that later evolved into Memoir ’44, Command& Colors: Ancients, BattleLore and Battles of Westeros.

As always, lots of interesting articles from Fantasy Flight: overview articles for A Game of Thrones: The Boardgame here and a beginner’s guide to Battles of Westeros here, a new preview for the upcoming Mansions of Madness here, an article on using the new Dungeonquest characters in Runewars here (and a Dungeonquest FAQ), and finally, the first preview for the upcoming Battlestar Galactica expansion, Exodus, here.

Have a great gaming weekend!

Video Review: Chaos In The Old World

Chaos in the old World Video Review_MPEG-4 Large

Available from Games Paradise Online

What hope can there be for the mortal world?

In the Warhammer world, four Gods of Chaos battle for supremacy. Khorne, the Blood God, the Skulltaker, lusts for death and battle. Nurgle, the Plaguelord, the Father of Corruption, luxuriates in filth and disease.Tzeentch, the Changer of Ways, the Great Conspirator, plots the fate of the universe. Slaanesh, the Prince of Pleasure and Pain, the Lord of Temptations, lures even the most steadfast to his six deadly seductions.

In the Chaos in the Old World board game, each player takes the role of one of the malevolent Lords of Chaos. Each god’s distinctive powers and legion of followers give the controlling player unique strengths and heretical abilities with which to corrupt and enslave the Old World. Yet, as the powers of Chaos seek domination by corruption and conquest, they must vie not only against each other, but also against the desperate denizens of the Old World who fight to banish the gods back to the maelstrom of the Realm of Chaos…for now.

The time of woe is upon us. — Grimoire Daemonicus

Chaos in the Old World includes:
1 Rulebook
1 Game Board
45 High-quality, fully detailed plastic playing pieces
4 Threat Dials
4 Power Sheets
More than 175 Tokens
Over 125 Cards
5 Dice

Dungeoncrawling

This week I’m going to be having a look at a time-honoured genre in the world of boardgaming—dungeon crawling (or, if you prefer, dungeon bashing)! Since the first parties of adventurers descended stone steps into the darkness in games of Dungeons and Dragons back in the early 1970s, gamers have loved to take stereotypical Tolkeinesque fantasy characters ‘down into the dungeon’ to test their prowess against the horrific denizens of the deep. And hot on the heels of D&D and other roleplaying games came boardgame equivalents. Let’s have a look at the huge range of dungeoncrawling boardgames out there, and examine a bit of the history of the genre.

Dungeon crawling in boardgame form pretty much started back in 1975 with a game called Dungeon! Heavily based on D&D, this simple boardgame was quite revolutionary for its time; allowing players to pick character classes and descend into a dungeon of six levels. You kill monsters, you get treasure … the basic template for dungeonbashing had been established.

Every geek of a certain generation will remember playing Heroquest as a kid; it is still the classic dungeoncrawl game. In a smart business move, Games Workshop partnered with mainstream games giant Milton Bradley to release this hugely successful game in 1989. Several expansion sets followed which all command high prices on Ebay (and there are different versions depending on where the game was published), and people still play, enjoy and collect this classic game. It certainly helped that it came with a spectacular range of plastic figures (even pieces of model furniture) and fantastic artwork for the time, but the game system itself is simple enough to be enjoyed by all ages. It also brought a bit of a roleplaying element back into the mix by having one player act as ‘Morcar’, the evil wizard who controls the dungeon and its monsters—in effect, he is the D&D ‘Dungeon Master’. Heroquest brought a lot of D&D players their first taste of the boardgame hobby—and it’s still a fantastic game to get young players into boardgaming.

It could be said that Advanced Heroquest (1989) was Games Workshop’s attempt to bring Heroquest players further into their hobby, and eventually to their tabletop wargames. It was a more complex version of Heroquest and came with a bunch of hero and Skaven (ratmen) figures; but along with the later Warhammer Quest (1995), these games were less self-contained and suffered from a heavy focus on getting players to buy more Citadel figures (Citadel was GW’s miniature company) and get more involved in the Warhammer world. They still very much have their fans and Warhammer Quest commands very high prices on Ebay.

It’s a fortuitous time to talk about GW’s next classic dungeoncrawl game Dungeonquest, because it’s the latest game to be ‘re-imagined’ by Fantasy Flight Games. This notoriously difficult game—it was easy to get into the dungeon, but getting out alive was another thing entirely—was originally Swedish and went by the name Drakborgen. GW released their own version in 1985 and a lot of people are very excited about the upcoming re-release. Dungeonquest put a twist on the genre by not only instigating a time limit to the adventuring, but a push-your-luck element where you can try to steal more and more treasure from the sleeping dragon at the heart of the dungeon—at the increasing risk of it waking up and killing you, that is! FFG have now set the game in their own fantasy melieu of Terrinoth and updated some of the mechanics, and it should be great to get this classic back on the table again.

So where was the original D&D brand while all this was happening? In an attempt to cash in on the gap left by the departure of Heroquest, Dungeons & Dragons The Fantasy Boardgame was released by Parker Bros in 2003. It had two expansions—Forbidden Forest and Eternal Winter. The game is quite similar to Heroquest, though the figures are not as good quality; and while it’s a good game for dungeoncrawl completists, it probably never quite recaptured the magic of the more popular game.

Now for something a bit different—it’s dungeoncrawling, but not as we know it, Jim! Hybrid was released by Rackham, a French company, in 2003 (an expansion called Nemesis followed the next year). At the time Rackham was known for its spectacular metal miniatures, and the game comes with an impressive collection of them. Despite its flaws—a terrible rules translation, ridiculously tiny type on the cards, confusing artwork on the ‘dungeon’ tiles—the game brought new complexity and richness to the genre, and the fantasy background is unique. If you can hack your way through the rules it is actually a very satisfying and original system, and the game certainly looks absolutely spectacular when set up, especially with painted figures.

Of course, if we expand our definition a little, dungeoncrawling needn’t be restricted to a fantasy setting. Heroquest was followed up in 1990 by another GW/Milton Bradley collaboration: a sci-fi version set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe called Space Crusade (and GW released Advanced Space Crusade, a completely different game, the same year). The Pressmen game Mutant Chronicles (1993) is also considered a bit of a classic of the sci-fi dungeoncrawl genre.

The videogame crossover hit Doom (2004) definitely deserves a mention. It’s one of my favourite games and has a wonderfully dark and creepy sci-fi gothic atmosphere. It comes with a large collection of beautifully-sculpted plastic figures and a set of stunning interlocking room and corridor tiles. The game also introduced an innovative dice-rolling system—one roll with a number of multi-coloured dice tells you the range of the shot, the damage, and even if you run out of ammo—and it features various scenarios that increase the story-telling aspect of the game. And don’t forget to pick up the essential expansion set!

Doom set the stage for the current grand-daddy of dungeonbashers, Descent (2005). This FFG behemoth has already spawned five expansion sets (including two special campaign sets) and shows no signs of slowing down. Featuring development of many of the mechanics from Doom—especially the special coloured dice—Descent is the gaming experience par excellence for those who want to go down into the dungeon and kill things and, with the expansion sets, run ‘roleplaying-light’ fantasy campaigns as well. There’s a vast selection of fantastic plastic miniatures to paint, hundreds of interlocking terrain tiles, cards by the thousand (or so it seems), and enough scenarios to keep even the most dedicated dungeoncrawling team busy killing things for years.

All the games I’ve talked about so far use a board or tiles and plastic figures, but for something completely different, try Cutthroat Caverns (2007). This clever card game turns the genre on its head; while you and your friends still head together into the dungeon to kill monsters—co-operating to do so—you’re also in it for yourself, trying to gain the all-important final blow so you can collect enough treasure to win the game. This can result in some hilarious last minute backstabbing. A plethora of special monster abilities add to the fun, and several expansion sets are available. The game also has the advantage of working especially well with a larger number of players (up to 6).

The most recent entrant into the dungeonbashing world is the beautiful Asmodee game Claustrophobia, released last year. In keeping with the high expectations of gamers these days, the plastic figures that come with the game are pre-painted, so you can dive into a stunning game experience right away. Claustrophobia is set in the alternative fantasy world of the miniatures game Hell Dorado, and features 17th century warriors delving under the city of New Jerusalem to battle demons from the depths of Hell. The game comes with several scenarios and more are being released online as we speak, and it has some interesting new mechanics that freshen up the genre. It’s certainly a worthy entrant into the rich genre of dungeoncrawling, and shows that this particular style of boardgame is showing no signs of becoming less popular any time soon!

Well, there you have it, a short look at the rich history of dungeon delving in boardgames. If you ever feeling like donning the mantle of mighty hero and clearing out the local dungeon of nasty inhabitants, give one of these games a go. Here’s hoping you make it out alive …

For more information about the games mentioned in this article, visit BoardgameGeek (www.boardgamegeek.com). Many of these games are now out of print unfortunately, but can be found on sites such as Ebay. You can also find rules summaries and reference sheets for some of these games at Headless Hollow.

by Universal Head

Universal Head (www.universalhead.com), has been designing graphics from the most corporate to the most creative for more than twenty years. He’s responsible for the graphic design of several boardgames, most notably ‘Tales of the Arabian Nights’ by Z-Man Games, and once spent a year recreating the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza in 3D for the computer game ‘The Omega Stone’. In between he’s designed everything from large corporate identities and websites, to packaging, to interactive educational modules. His personal site www.headlesshollow.com is an obsessive repository of professionally designed rules summaries and reference sheets for popular boardgames.

An Introduction to Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay

The roleplaying game Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (WFRP) has had a long and interesting history since its first release in 1986. But if you’ve only just become aware of the fact that you can roleplay in Games Workshop’s venerable Warhammer world, now’s the perfect time to get started, because Fantasy Flight Games recently released a brand new third edition.

First, a little history. The first version of WFRP was a thick, everything-in-one hardcover book, and immediately the game set itself apart from other RPGs like Dungeons and Dragons with two innovations.  The first was the career system. Instead of progressing through ‘levels’, WFRP characters could move through a series of careers that ran the gamut from lowly grunts like rat-catchers and charlatans to respected members of society like nobles and scholars. Careers were just the first sign of a strong emphasis on roleplaying and storytelling instead of ‘dungeon-bashing’. The second innovation was a combat system surprising in its lethality. Unlike D&D, for example, where you could bash away at a powerful character for ages without significantly wearing down its stock of hit points, WFRP characters were always at the mercy of a few lucky arrow shots or well-placed blows; and a gruesomely detailed critical hit system made combat damage far more realistic and visceral. It was indeed, as advertised, A Grim World of Perilous Adventure!

(Personally, I’ll never forget our very first game, when one of the players confidently picked a fight in a bar and ended up being carried out with a broken leg and various other wounds which led to a protracted period of healing as they journeyed down river. But then again, the other guy ended up in the river …)

WFRP was a great success, not least because the first adventure campaign for the game, The Enemy Within, is still regarded as one of the best in RPG history.  The first four episodes—Mistaken Identity, Shadows Over Bogenhafen, Death on the Reik, and The Power Behind the Throne—established all the classic elements of WFRP gaming; the grim and gritty atmosphere, the secret Chaos cults among the powerful, the quirky English sense of black humour and bad puns, and a pageant of interesting and memorable characters. Unfortunately, the quality of the last two episodes, Something Rotten in Kislev and Empire in Flames, didn’t live up to this high water mark, and some would say that WFRP fans are still awaiting adventure material to match the incredible inventiveness of those first releases.

After a strange D&D-like adventure series, the Doomstones campaign, WFRP went out of print and entered the first of several ‘hibernation periods’. Fans kept the game alive—most notably in the Strike to Stun newsletter—but some years passed before finally, in 1995, a small English company called Hogshead Publishing gained the rights to publish WFRP material. The original rulebook was reprinted, and along with other reprints came some excellent new books, especially material centred around the Venice-like city of Marienburg. In 2001 their most ambitious release came with the long awaited magic supplement Realms of Sorcery (this author had the honour of designing the cover around the Ralph Horsley illustration), and later a Dwarven sourcebook, but the game was once again to slide back out of print when Hogshead gave up the licence for various reasons in 2002.

After another long break, the GW division Black Industries, in collaboration with Green Ronin, re-released WFRP in a brand new edition in 2005. The combat system was changed somewhat to add more options and variety, character characteristics were modified a bit, but the game was essentially the same. A veritable tide of WFRP material followed, in both soft- and hardback form; almost 25 books and supplements, including the Paths of the Damned and The Thousand Thrones campaigns, and many interesting sourcebooks covering places in the Old World that players had never seen in detail before, like Tilea, The Border Princes, and Karak Azghal.

In 2009, everything changed again. WFRP moved to Fantasy Flight Games, and ater selling some of the old v2 material and releasing a Character Compendium, FFG suddenly announced a totally new version of WFRP that would see the most changes to the game since it was first released. It was a controversial announcement, especially among older players; when it became clear that the new system relied on dice pools and printed components there were cries of “boardgame!” But now that the game has been out for a while and the dust has settled, old players seem to have accepted the changes and realised that the focus is still on the storytelling, and the unique atmosphere of the Old World.

The new version is quite a different beast from its predecessors. In keeping with FFG’s reputation for graphic quality, it looks stunning, and instead of using tables of information in a hardcover book, most of the gaming information is presented in the form of full colour cards which players can acquire as their characters progress, all in a big box. The career system is still there, and combat is still lethal, but there are many more options in combat, and much more interpretation and flexibility due to a ‘dice pool’ system. This means that instead of calculating a particular chance to achieve some action and rolling a ‘pass’ or ‘fail’ result, players roll a pool of different dice that represent, for example, the relevant characteristic, the level of challenge, and the vagaries of fortune, and then interpret the results depending on the final number of success or fail icons, and other results like ‘boons’ and ‘banes’. So not only can you see if your action succeeded or failed, but by how much, what factors were responsible, and what other quirks of fate affected the outcome. It all adds up to a greater emphasis on creativity and storytelling, and after you quickly get used to the system, you’ll find your games flowing faster than ever before.

So far the core game and an Adventurer’s Toolkit has been released, and coming soon is a Game Master’s Toolkit. The most hotly anticipated release however is a new adventure boxed set, The Gathering Storm. It remains to be seen whether FFG can live up to the high hopes and expectations of players worldwide and release a WFRP campaign that recalls the glory days of The Enemy Within

For more information about WFRP mentioned in this article, visit Fantasy Flight Games at http://www.fantasyflightgames.com. You can also find rules summaries and reference sheets for the game at http://www.headlesshollow.com/freebies_games.html#wfrp3.

by Universal Head

Universal Head (www.universalhead.com), has been designing graphics from the most corporate to the most creative for more than twenty years. He’s responsible for the graphic design of several boardgames, most notably ‘Tales of the Arabian Nights’ by Z-Man Games, and once spent a year recreating the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza in 3D for the computer game ‘The Omega Stone’. In between he’s designed everything from large corporate websites, to postage stamps, to a mobile phone interface. His personal site www.headlesshollow.com is an obsessive repository of professionally designed rules summaries and reference sheets for popular boardgames.

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